Cole Clemons set a big goal for his first full season in ProRodeo.
“I knew I was going to get my card this year [for 2024], so my goal was to get to the NFR Open, either by winning the circuit or the Circuit Finals,” Clemons said. “It was a huge goal because I knew it would help in my rookie year to compete there.
“There’s the opportunity for a lot of money and only 24 guys who get to rope there.”
The NFR Open is a very lofty goal no matter where you’re roping, but when you’re competing in the Texas Circuit, it’s just a bit bigger. At just 19 years old, however, Clemons was undaunted by the task.
Roping on his permit, he snagged wins at five Texas Circuit rodeos to carry an $8,100 lead into Waco. Though he struggled in his first appearance at the RAM Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo, his stellar regular season prevailed by $1,644 over Shad Mayfield, despite the latter’s huge Finals push.
“I had a rough week in Waco but somehow stuck it out and won it.”
The Roping Bug
Clemons grew up on a ranch in South Florida and was consumed with roping nearly as soon as he tried it, learning from family friends who were ropers.
“My grandpa roped a little but we’re not a huge rodeo family,” he said.
Clemons was a standout junior roper, winning the 2021 National High School Finals Rodeo as well as the 2022 Cinch World Championship Junior Rodeo before signing on to Weatherford College, a move that brought him to Texas.
“I’m in my third semester so I’m just getting a feel for it but right now, I’m studying ag business,” he noted. Clemons is seventh in the early going in the NIRA’s Southwestern Region after claiming a win at the last college rodeo in which he participated.
The adage that iron sharpens iron appears to be true with the Weatherford team. On the same weekend that Clemons earned the Texas Circuit Championship, teammate Cash Fuesz won the Prairie Circuit Finals average title.
Good Ol’ Joe
For horsepower, Clemons relies on Joe, a blue roan he’s owned for about three years.
“Pretty much my entire rodeo career, I’ve been on him,” he said.
“He’s not the fastest or flashiest horse. There’s nothing completely special about him but he just fits me,” Clemons said. “He’s not the best on long scores or strong calves but luckily, 60 to 70% of the places we rope are quick starts with good calves, and that’s where he fits best.”
Racking up Wins
Calling his start in ProRodeo rough, Clemons benefitted from time spent with some giants of the sport.
“I stayed a week with Jade Conner and Riley Webb,” he said. “They helped me a lot and that was really the turning point for me.”
In his march to the circuit championship, a big win at the West of the Pecos Rodeo just before the Fourth of July gave him a lead he would not relinquish.
“Winning the average at Pecos, that helped a lot,” he said. “After that, I kind of got in a groove and just kept winning.”
Clemons didn’t limit his wins to Texas. He ventured beyond the Red River and won go rounds in big rodeos like Guymon (Okla.) and Dodge City (Kansas). He also picked up an average win in Ogden, Utah.
In total, the teenager won $55,729 in ProRodeo this year, the best among all permit holders by nearly double.
With his rookie card now in hand, and Joe along with a good backup ready to go, Clemons has his sights set on more lofty goals.
“I’ve gotten into some of the building rodeos in the winter and I’m going to go pretty hard this summer,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll end up at the Thomas & Mack.”